Change in Bangladesh anti-terror policy may revive militancy in Assam: Tarun Gogoi

GUWAHATI: Assam chief minister TarunGogoi, in his speech at a conference on internal security with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other chief ministers of the country in New Delhi on Wednesday, cautioned that if the next Bangladesh government changes its anti-terror policy, militancy will be on a revival path in the state. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, meanwhile, in his address at the conference, said that the security situation in the northeast continues to be complex.

Gogoi added that the threat of militancy has not yet been wiped out. "It is premature to declare that the long nightmare of militancy is over. Ulfa (anti-talks) and other militant outfits retain an arsenal of sophisticated weapons and explosives and continue criminal acts of killing, extortion and abduction, though on a far lesser scale." He said that coordinated action is needed in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Meghalaya if training, arms supply transit routes and shelters of militants are to be choked.

Bangladesh had played host to almost all militant outfits of the state and the region during the previous overnment led by Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The crackdown on Indian militant groups based in Bangladesh by the present government led by Sheikh Hasina's Awami League has broken the backbone of these outfits.

Besides forcing them to leave Bangladesh soil, Hasina's government has also handed over key leaders of Ulfa and the National Democratic Front of Boroland to India. The next general election in Bangladesh is due in January next year.

"Any reversal by a future Bangladeshi regime of the drive against Indian militants will revive the spectre of inviolate sanctuaries across our borders. Moreover, the demographic and economic factors which attract youth to the militant path remain, and though public support has dwindled, recruits continue to join militant outfits from vulnerable sections," Gogoi said in his speech.

He also requested that the Centre closely monitor Bhutan, where efforts are on by outfits to reopen their camps.

The chief minister pushed for upgrade of India Reserve (IR) battalions in Assam to a special force for effective anti-Maoist operations as approved for other Maoist-affected states. "It is only by proactive effort that we can prevent the Maoists from spreading roots in Assam," he said.

Gogoi is worried about the vulnerability of riverine islands of the state, which are located in remote areas and have barely any communication.

He said: "If the Maoists succeed in establishing a foothold in the dispersed and innumerable river islands called chars and chaporis, governing and policing them will be as difficult as governing the dense forests of the Abujhmad region in Chattisgarh and Saranda in Jharkhand."